The Memphis Grizzlies made the playoffs each of the last three seasons. It was expected that they would find their way back there again this 2023-24. Unfortunately for them, that never seemed to be in the cards. A series of mishaps and setbacks never really allowed the Grizzlies to field their full roster. Ahead of their showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, they had only won 27 games on the season.

Memphis is still a very young team that will have multiple more cracks at competing for a championship in the near future. However, every year is precious and filled with endless possibilities. This year slipped through their fingers and they were never able to get it back on track. There are a couple of reasons for that. The availability of Ja Morant and injuries in general could be used to blame for this lost Grizzlies season.

Ja Morant's troubling year

Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) dunks during the second half against the Denver Nuggets at FedExForum
Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

It's one thing to get decimated by injuries. That happened to the Grizzlies this year ten-fold and will get discussed at length in a bit. But it's another thing to go into the season staring adversity in the face. That's what happened with Memphis and their superstar Ja Morant. Morant was suspended for the first 25 games of this season for off-court conduct that included him flaunting a gun on his Instagram Live.

Morant briefly left the team in the middle of last season for doing that in a club in Denver, but later returned. Once this happened shortly after their playoff loss to the Lakers, a suspension followed a few months later.

Perhaps injuries were going to derail this season for Memphis no matter what. But, a strong start to the year with their best player in the lineup potentially could've made it easier to stave off those setbacks. The Grizzlies started the season 6-19 in the 25 games Morant missed. He returned and the Grizzlies immediately won as many games in a nine-game span. Winning two-thirds of your games is never easy, but if Morant were there and Memphis sustained that rate of winning, they would've had 22 wins through 34 games instead of 12.

The winning didn't last very long. Morant suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in their January 5th win over the Lakers and didn't play another game. That's a legitimate excuse for a star player to not be available. His suspension wasn't, and it cost the Grizzlies this year.


Morant's suspension may not have mattered because of how battered the Grizzlies were all year long. Injuries completely nuked this year's team. Morant played only nine games. Marcus Smart, their big offseason acquisition, was available for just 20 games. Desmond Bane has appeared in 42 games. Brandon Clarke, who was rehabbing a torn Achilles injury suffered last season, played just six games this year. Memphis traded Steven Adams at the deadline to the Houston Rockets in part to free up money down the road, but also because he was never healthy all year.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Santi Aldama and Ziaire Williams have been the only Grizzlies this season to appear in at least 50 games. It's an asinine stat and is why Memphis has had *33* players suit up for them this season–33! That's nearly twice the size of an NBA roster including two-way players!

As soon as one player would come back, another would get hurt. That cycle continued all season long. Injuries completely torched an entire season for a surefire playoff team. At least the odds of a rash of injuries this long happening again next season are minuscule. The world will get a look at the real Memphis Grizzlies again in the 2024-25 campaign.